￼As human beings, we’re pretty gifted when it comes to sizing others up. If they don’t have our level of education or live in a place as nice as ours; if their skin color or language or religious heritage is different; or if they walk funny or talk funny (or can’t walk or talk at all), we look down on them.
Each one of us has our own litmus test — spoken or unspoken, subtle or overt — by which we measure others against ourselves.
Ever wonder why our schools are populated with little cliques of friends who all look alike? Well, left to their own devices, kids tend to buddy up with peers who are more or less like them. This tendency may be due to insecurity or peer pressure, but whatever the cause, it shows up every single day in the school lunchroom and on the playground.
The truth is, even we adults tend to gravitate to people who are similar to us. Maybe we’re insecure. Maybe we’re worried about how people around us will perceive us if we associate with a certain person.
But if we never step out beyond that comfort zone, if we never get close to folks who are not like us, we miss the opportunity to grow and stretch and learn and share and deepen our emotional and spiritual lives.
If your worth is based on other people’s opinions of you, you will never break away from your comfortable circle of friends; you will never have your life enriched by people who are different.
Our kids need to experience these same important opportunities for relational and spiritual growth. To help make that happen, consider these questions:
- How can our children learn to see people for who they are on the inside instead of the outside?
- How do we teach them to befriend those who are beyond the borders of their comfortable circles?
- What can we parents do to help our kids take an interest in the disabled, the disadvantaged, or the just plain different?
Like every other spiritual principle, our children learn either prejudice or inclusivity from us. Our kids see how we live, what we value, and the way we treat people. So if you don’t like what you see in your children, look in the mirror. The fact is, they often become what you model for them.
When we see people the way God sees them, we look at everyone from a totally different perspective.
So make it your personal goal to live the way Jesus lived. Jesus, who valued all people, who welcomed the outcasts and sinners, who ignored the gossip and the accusations from the Pharisees, and went about the business of loving people the way God loved them.
Routinely ask your kids if they notice anyone in the neighborhood or at school who seems to be overlooked or disconnected from others. Help your children get into the habit of including some of those kids. Their outreach may breathe life into someone who is discouraged, downtrodden, or disconnected. And rather than gaining popularity for themselves, your kids are giving worth — and that’s far more important.
Beyond that, teach your children that reaching out to people is not an act of charity; it’s simply the way that Christians live. We don’t accept others because we’re “doing good” for them; we accept them because it’s the right thing to do and in enlarging the boundaries of our own lives, we find ourselves more enriched.
Excerpted with permission from How to Raise Selfless Kids in a Self-Centered World by Dave Stone, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.
* * *
How do you encourage your children to not only step outside of their comfort zone when it comes to including others, but to love others the way Jesus loves us? Leave a comment on our blog!